MASH CONFERENCE 2011

I had a very exciting day on Tuesday. I was at a conference. I was lucky (for once) and won my place on Twitter, which regular readers will know is one of my favourite places – right up there with Dingle and Cape Cod.

Although I got a ticket for free this conference sounded serious stuff and wasn’t any ole two bit event. It was organised by an outfit called Mediacontact.ie whose aim is to “to connect you with your targeted media, get them interested in your organisation and help you to build a presence in the media for your business, project or campaign.” Their conference was entitled Exploding Media and was billed as telling “the story of the extraordinary transformation of the media over the last five years and identify the key trends, technologies and topics that will shape the future for the next five”. So with my still fairly new freelance writer and journalist hat firmly on, I knew that this was a great opportunity I had been gifted.

Having spent the last ten years at home mothering and cooking and cleaning and the like, it was some time since I was at a conference. Although in my day I attended quite a lot of them. So first thing I figured was getting there on time – not easy for someone who hasn’t commuted for a decade. I decided the best strategy was to forgo breakfast in order to leave plenty of time for the journey, as I wasn’t sure what the traffic was like and I had to make my way from deepest Cabinteely to Croke Park. It said on my conference info that registration was open from 7.30 and would be accompanied by ‘morning refreshments’.

My journey, surprisingly, only took me an hour and so I arrived at about 8.30 and was looking forward to a nice latte and perhaps a danish or croissant for breakfast. Croke Park is a fabulous conference venue but I was amazed (well I was horrified really) to find that the coffee was very mediocre (latte? – forget it – it was coffee – “milk is over there”) and the only food on offer was biscuits! Is this recession or is this standard GAA fare? It was certainly more in keeping with the local club’s after match refreshments than what I remember being available at conferences in the 90s.

Anyway once I got over the trauma of having a biscuit for breakfast and very worried that my stomach was going to growl loudly through the morning’s proceedings I made my way into the conference room.

Within minutes I realized just how out of touch I was with modern conferences. First of all an announcement was made which roughly went as follows: “of course we don’t expect you to turn off your phones but please just turn them to silent. The hashtag for the conference is #mashmedia. Enjoy.”

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, inserting a hashtag into your tweet enables you to follow a particular conversation around a topic. So while sitting and listening to the presentations I could post my own reactions and comments and follow those of both my fellow delegates and those who were following the proceedings but not present. It takes a wee bit of practice to listen to what is happening in the real world and read and react on Twitter simultaneously. Although a couple of weeks watching The Late Late Show in the company of Twitter is all you really need to do in order to perfect that skill. In order to maximize the value of the Twitter Feed, the organizers had a row of about 10 tweeters at desks who were tasked with tweeting the conference.

Meanwhile, at the back of the hall there was a large screen which was displaying the conference stream on Storify. Storify is website which allows users to gather and curate content on social media in order to tell a particular story. In the case of the Exploding Media Conference, this task was given to students from DIT who combined tweets, video and photos in order to build the story.

So as I took my place, I was so grateful that I at least had an iPhone so that I could follow the twitter conversation and add my voice to those around me both physically and virtually, although I did come home and write an early note to Santa about an iPad.

The day whizzed by and the conference lived up to its name. My brain was exploding with ideas and new information. I came home and regurgitated it all for my poor husband who is still having problems in understanding Twitter! As his eyes glazed over and he began to snore I decided to shut up.

But my head has been exploding ever since. My brain contains a mash of what I have learned. This mash includes

  • the fact that cats have tiny undeveloped thumbs (how did I not know that – I have 4 felines),
  • CDs are so passé dahling (jaysus and we still have a box of LPs)
  • I really would love an iPad because Kindles are a bit old fashioned as new online reading may include embedded video and links.
  • Oh and the current revolution of digital media has been compared to the invention of the printing press in its importance. Not so, according to Bill Thompson, head of Digital Archiving with the BBC (so he should know, right?) the digital revolution is going to have the same impact on the human race as learning to decipher symbols, in other words literacy, did.

Wowsers.

So off I go to ensure that I do not remain analogue in a digital age. CDs apparently look very decorative when hung in the garden where they catch the sun! But in the real world can someone tell Croke Park that good coffee is not a luxury anymore!

Sincere thanks to Media Contact for their generosity in offering some free places at what was a really enlightening conference. I really did learn a lot more than what I have outlined above! Promise!